By Harry Mottram: With the cut off date just three days away to announce candidates for the General Election on July 4th, 2024, the Wells and Mendip Hills Conservatives have selected Meg Powell-Chandler to join the fray. She is the sixth candidate in the electoral battle to take over from the Conservative MP James Heappey who has stood down. She joins those from the Lib Dems, Reform, the Greens, Labour and an Independent.

Meg is a special political advisor from London who has previously worked at 10 Downing Street, the Department of Education and in 2017 ran for election in Birmingham Northfield. She read Modern History and Politics at Oxford University from 2006 to 2009 and until the election was the special adviser to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer MP.

Meg Powell-Chandler

Following a meeting of the Conservative Association in Wells on Sunday, June 2nd, she said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be selected as the Conservative candidate for Wells and Mendip Hills. Having spent weeks knocking on doors and speaking to local people they want an active champion who knows how to get things done – and I will be just that.

“I will be a bold champion for local communities and businesses, working day in and day out to deliver for the people of Wells and Mendip Hills.”

Her manifesto includes a commitment to farmers, tackling flooding, improving education standards and healthcare provision along with increasing investment locally and backing local businesses.

Critics will point to the fact she is in effect being ‘parachuted into the constituency from London’ at the last minute without a chance to familiarise herself with the area while James Heappey was still MP. And as a champion of farming she will be up against the Labour candidate Joe Joseph a sheep farmer, while in terms of local business the Reform candidate Helen Himms has a history of retailing.

Putting those aside and remembering there is no perfect candidate in any election she will be installed as favourite to see off the challenge of Tessa Munt for the Liberal Democrats who is seen as the most likely successor by many to James Heappey. She was the MP from 2010 to 2015 for Wells, has maintained a high profile locally and has been elected as a Somerset County Councillor where she is an executive member. And as ‘an outsider’ Independent Abi McGuire who is running a strong local campaign will feel she as a Shepton Mallet Town Councillor has an advantage when it comes to credibility over Meg.

The Green Party’s Peter Walsh is perhaps likely to be the least concerned there is Conservative candidate as its fair to say there is not too much cross over between the supporters of the two parties. One thing is clear – and it makes a refreshing change – is that the female candidates outnumber the men two to one.

I will update information here with the manifestos of the the political parties for the candidates when they are published and try to give news as it comes in. Candidates for Wells and the Mendip Hills in alphabetical order:

Helen Himms, Reform Party.

Joe Joseph, Labour Party.

Abi McGuire, Independent.

Tessa Munt, Liberal Democrat.

Meg Powell-Chandler, Conservative.

Peter Welsh, Green Party.


In 2019 James Heappey had 33,336 votes with Tessa Munt on 23,345, Labour’s Kama McKenzie had 4,304, with Dave Dobbs independent on 373 and Susie Quatemass Motherworld Party on 270 votes. That gave the Conservatives a majority of 9,991 – meaning by any measure this would be seen as a safe seat for them despite the change of candidate. However so much has changed since then with the Brexit Business Deal, the Covid 19 pandemic and Boris Johnson and Liz Truss coming and going from 10 Downing Street all are now history. The Partygate Scandal and the Cost of Living Crisis plus the Truss/Kwarteng Mini Budget changed the fortunes of the Conservative Party for the worse. All of which makes the task of Meg Powell-Chandler to hold the seat that much harder. However in the four weeks left of the campaign anything can happen and those with long memories like me of the 1970 and 1991 elections when Labour were favourites to win but in the end lost – will know nothing is certain in elections.


Like several towns and cities in the South West its parliamentary representation dates to 1295 when as part of the Wells constiuency it had two MPs. The Reform Act of 1867 changed this archaic representation and in 1885 the seat had just one MP as modern politics finally took over from the era of Whigs and Tories when Sir Richard Paget became the sole Coonservative MP. The first known or rather named MP was Nicholas Christesham in 1386 who along with Thomes Phelpes represented Wells and the area that included Axbridge. Apart from three occasions when either the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats won the seat the Conservatives have a long period of success since the 19th century in representing the area which has changed hugely over the years. At this election the new boundary takes in Yatton but leaves out Burnham-on-Sea meaning a slightly different electorate.


Whether others will join the contest is yet to be seen but I will update residents on my website of developments purely out of interest – and I will do my best to be objective. I cover professionally Bath for a newspaper which has not dissimilar dynamics to Wells – although the current Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse will have to do spectacularly badly to lose.

Axbridge News is edited by Harry Mottram for his own interest and those of residents.

Harry is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc